Why Heirloom Tomatoes?

This is a message that Juniper, of Juniper Farm, recently sent to her CSA members regarding heirloom tomatoes:

Japanese Black Trifle (Heirloom Tomato) photo: Johnny's Seeds.

An ‘heirloom’ veggie is a cultivar that was commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but which is not used in modern large-scale agriculture.  Heirlooms are not used in  large scale conventional agriculture for a few key reasons.

They:
o do not transport well – even for us down the road
o are not uniform in size and colour; they can often crack and look misshapen depending on the environmental factors
o do not yield what modern cultivated varieties of tomatoes yield

So why do we grow them at Juniper Farm?  They are the best tasting and most unique looking tomatoes of all.  Once you have tasted a brandywine, green zebra, a Cherokee purple or a Sunkist you just can not go back. If they are mildly blemished it is par for the course. Please try these delights!

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Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit. Barry Estabrook

Just a I was creating this post, another friend, Mr. Dulanto from Toronto, sent me the Macleans’ book review by Jessica Allen titled  How we ruined the tomato Here’s an excerpt:

The story begins with the author driving in Naples, Fla., stuck behind a tractor-trailer stacked high with what appear to be Granny Smith apples. But the perfectly round green spheres, whose skins don’t break when they bounce off the back of the truck onto the roadside, are tomatoes: the sort that nearly everyone is guilty of reaching for in January—and that Americans spent $5 billion on in 2009. Those hard green balls (blasting them with ethylene turns their exteriors red while leaving the interiors underripe and tasteless) contain 30 per cent less vitamin C and about 14 times more sodium than cultivated tomatoes did in 1960. And because the Florida Tomato Committee decrees the exact size, colour, texture and shape of all their exported fruit, Florida tomato farmers, who provide North Americans with one-third of all their tomatoes, have over 100 chemicals in their arsenal to combat insects, bacteria and diseases. But, as Estabrook notes, “nowhere do the regulations mention taste.” Read more.

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